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Archdiocese responds to coronavirus

Churches, schools, nursing facilities take steps to reduce risk of contagion

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Editor's note: This article appears in the March edition of the Florida Catholic newspaper, which went to press March 13. A few updates have been added. However, for the latest on the coronavirus measures being taken in the archdiocese, please see COVID-19 latest updates.

MIAMI | Archdiocesan churches, schools and elderly care facilities have taken steps since earlier this month to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

On March 2, the Archdiocese of Miami issued guidelines for parishes including:

  • Temporary suspension of the use of minor chalices for the distribution of the Precious Blood in those parishes where Communion is normally offered under both species.
  • Temporary suspension of the communal Sign of Peace (kissing or shaking of hands).
  • Not to hold hands during the recitation/chanting of the Our Father.
  • Temporary suspension of the greeting before Mass (if a parish has this practice).
  • Emptying the holy water fonts at the church doors.
  • Use of anti-bacterial soap by the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion before and after distribution of the Host.
  • Reminding parishioners that if they feel unwell or have flu like symptoms they are encouraged to stay home.

The guidelines also suggest that the celebrant use discretion if he shakes hands while greeting parishioners before or after the Mass.

In addition, any Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion who feels uncomfortable distributing Communion — because it involves contact with both the mouth and hands — should be allowed to temporarily step down from ministry.

It is still left to the discretion of the communicant how they wish to receive the Host: in the hand or on the tongue. 


SCHOOLS

The archdiocesan Department of Schools canceled field trips and athletic competitions in elementary and middle schools. Classes were to be held online from March 17 until further notice, with Easter break being transferred to the week of March 23-27. There will be no classes on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Monday, April 9, 10 and 13.

Superintendent Kim Pryzbylski also issued guidelines March 11 regarding travel during spring break.

Students who recently traveled or have plans to visit any Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 countries in the foreseeable future are requested to advise their principal “immediately via email. Please make sure to include the dates and locations(s) of travel. If travel to these areas is critical or essential, please advise your principal and make arrangements for school assignments to be completed by your child upon the return to the U.S. during the quarantine period.”

The designation of Level 1, 2 or 3 is made by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. For Level 3 countries — China, South Korea, Italy and Iran as of March 11 — students must self-quarantine at home for 14 days and may report to school only if symptom-free after the 14-day period.

For Level 2 countries — currently Japan — it is strongly suggested that students self-quarantine at home for 14 days and return to school only if symptom-free after the quarantine.

For Level 1 areas — currently Hong Kong — students are encouraged to self-quarantine at home for 14 days upon their return.

The CDC is also advising travelers to defer cruise ship travel. “If you take a cruise in the next few weeks, you will be at Warning Level 3,” the archdiocesan statement said.

It also urged parents to check the most current CDC travel health notices by visiting https://wwwnc.cdsc.gov/travel/notices


HEALTH AND ELDERLY SERVICES

Catholic Health Services, which operates three rehabilitation hospitals, four skilled nursing centers and two assisted living residences in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, has implemented new protocols for patients and residents. These include:

  • Posting signs on all entry doors to notify visitors of the symptoms of COVID-19 and request that they not enter the building if they are experiencing these symptoms.
  • Limiting face to face visits and encouraging phone calls and video chats instead.
  • Stopping all off-campus visits to churches, stores, restaurants, etc.
  • Stopping all groups, such as choirs, from coming to campuses.
  • Stopping patients from going out with families or making overnight visits.
  • Stopping pet therapy.

The agency is also requiring visitors to its facilities — including 16 apartment complexes for low-income elderly and five childcare sites — to fill out a form stating whether they are running a fever, feeling sick or experiencing a cold or cough; have been on a cruise or visited any area, foreign or domestic, that is dealing with a coronavirus infection, or had contact with anyone who has; have worked in a health care setting with confirmed COVID-19 cases; or been in contact with anyone who is under investigation or has a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Employees also are being told to stay home if they feel sick and to report any travel abroad or contact with persons who could have been infected with the virus.

“Ensuring our staff and residents are in a safe and healthy environment is our greatest concern,” wrote Brian J. Kiedrowski, chief medical officer, in a March 7 letter to employees. “Our facilities are following the recommendations of the CDC on using basic contact precautions to prevent the spread which include wearing gowns and gloves when interacting with residents who are sick, as we always do,” he noted.

Catholic Charities moved to mobile delivery of the meals it provides to seniors in its Elderly Services and Congregate Meal sites. See story here.

The medical consensus is that the elderly and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness if exposed to the coronavirus. The recommendation is that people wash their hands with soap and water; cover their coughs and sneezes with their arm, not their hands. And, if they're sick, stay at home and avoid crowds.

The CDC recommends that individuals with recent travel history on a cruise, or exposure to those events, monitor their health for 14 days and, if they develop symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact their county health department or health care provider.

The archdiocese encourages people to visit the CDC website —https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html— and the Florida Department of Health —http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/COVID-19/covid19-toolkit.html— for the latest information and tips for staying safe.

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